Stressed to the max, so just sod off

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - SUSAN KUROSAWA

There are lots of rea­sons to get mad up in the air and not just on United Air­lines where pay­ing for a seat doesn’t ap­pear to be a guar­an­tee of take-off. There are ghastly developments such as the new “ba­sic” econ­omy fare from Amer­i­can Air­lines, with less legroom, no ac­cess to over­head lug­gage lock­ers and the de­bat­able thrill of be­ing the last to board. On its 737 “Max” planes, be­ing in­tro­duced on North Amer­ica routes this year, ex­tra seat­ing will be crammed in, less dis­tance be­tween rows will re­duce legroom, so pas­sen­gers will have to sit like semi-folded deckchairs. Max dis­com­fort, per­haps. Hello, DVT.

Most of us are cranky and stressed af­ter brav­ing all those air­port se­cu­rity checks — nec­es­sary, of course, but some­times so du­pli­cated. Why do I breeze through one set of se­cu­rity por­tals with no beep-beep alert and, at the de­par­ture gate, get sent through a sec­ond and a siren goes off, all flash­ing lights and reach­ing for firearms (not mine). The prob­lem is my shoes, ap­par­ently. They are taken away, ex­am­ined every which­way, the in­ner­soles yanked out and then re­turned with­out com­ment. I board in a scratchy mood, but am among the first pas­sen­gers so can stash my haul of ce­ram­ics from Si­cily snugly in the over­head locker.

My hand lug­gage is small and in­of­fen­sive com­pared with suit­cases the size of steamer trunks now be­ing loaded. “Wheels to the rear!” an­nounces the flight at­ten­dant as she as­sists pas­sen­gers to stow their suit­cases with as many wheels as a trucker’s rig. Bang, wal­lop, push, shove, I watch in hor­ror as my lit­tle stash is re­as­signed. Now it is un­der a Sam­sonite big­ger than my checked-in case. I wait for the crunch of my plat­ters and vases from Taormina and want to cry. Thanks to the mirac­u­lous prop­er­ties of bub­ble wrap, the ce­ram­ics sur­vive.

But not my toes, which are run over more than once as we dis­em­bark by those small car­a­vans mas­querad­ing as suit­cases. I get hit in the head by an enor­mous back­pack when a pas­sen­ger in front of me turns side­ways. Some­one (not me) shouts at him to watch where he’s go­ing. He replies they should sod off. Ex­cept he doesn’t say sod.

Ear­lier this year, an air­line texts me at 1.15am to say my 9am in­ter­na­tional flight from Syd­ney has been can­celled and I will be re­as­signed to a later de­par­ture. The toll-free num­ber in the text I am in­structed to call is en­gaged for sev­eral hours. I have a con­nec­tion in Auck­land and need to be sure I’ll make it. I get through at 4.45am and sup­press the urge to scream.

At least I am dressed and abuzz with espres­sos. The op­er­a­tor (concierge?) says I am re­as­signed to a much later flight that won’t al­low me to catch the con­nec­tion. I ask if she has my on­ward book­ing de­tails with a part­ner air­line. Oh, yes. Hey, would I like to be al­lo­cated an ear­lier flight from Syd­ney so I can catch the next one? Oh that would be just so handy. All done, you’re on the 7am now, be at the air­port by 5am. It is now 4.57am, but pos­si­bly not at the Ban­ga­lore concierg­erie. As I race out the door, I mut­ter a word that def­i­nitely is not sod.

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